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Worldwide Threat: Biological, Chemical Weapons - 2001-09-25

The World Health Organization (WHO) is raising alarms about the threat of biological or chemical weapons attacks by terrorists. It is advising Western governments to be on alert.

The executive director of the World Health Organization, David Nabarro, says the threat to Western populations must not be underestimated. Dr. Nabarro told British radio Tuesday that there is the potential of mass attacks using anthrax or botulism, or even smallpox.

He said the WHO is trying to keep governments informed of the biological and chemical agents that could be used, and how to combat them. "I think the alarm bells are starting to ring," Dr. Nabarro said, "not least because people are worried about the variety of different forms of terror that could be undertaken. And under these circumstances, it would be imprudent not to be thinking, at least, and really planning as hard as possible."

His warning comes as Western governments try to guard against more terrorist attacks in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

U.S. authorities grounded all flights by aerial spraying 'crop-duster' planes amid fears they could be used to spread biological or chemical weapons.

In Britain, military surplus stores are reporting brisk sales of gas masks and protective clothing.

London police are on their highest state of alert since World War II following a warning from the head of Scotland Yard that the British capital could be the terrorists' next target.